Louisiana Racing Commission gives final approval for Louisiana Downs sale

Greg Hilburn
Shreveport Times
Jockey Gerard Melancon stands tall after riding Fantasticat to victory in the Harrah's Louisiana Downs Super Derby XXV on Sept. 25, 2004, in Bossier City.

Louisiana's Racing Commission gave final approval Tuesday for the sale of Harrah's Louisiana Downs horse racetrack and casino in Bossier City to Rubico Gaming for $22 million.

Tuesday's approval follows last week's OK from the Louisiana Gaming Commission. Both regulators had to sign off on the deal, which has been in the works for more than a year.

"We are prepared to bring this iconic track back to its iconic status," Rubico President Kevin Preston told the commission.

Joe Morris of Caesars said the sale is expected to close Nov. 1.

"We're completely committed to making the transition as smooth as possible," Morris said.

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Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns told USA Today Network last week he believes the sale is critical to the future of Louisiana Downs.

"I really believe if this sale didn't go through Caesars would ultimately close the facility; the company just isn't interested in operating a horse racetrack," Johns said.

Louisiana Downs has roughly 12,000 square feet of casino floor space in addition to the expansive horse racing facility.

Rubico will continue to operate the racetrack as well as the casino and will apply for a sports betting license to add to its platforms.

Preston has told regulators Rubico plans to make significant upgrades to both the casino and the racing campus, including adding an RV park.

Louisiana Downs opened in 1974. 

During its heyday in the early 1980s, as many as 1.3 million fans attended the track over the racing season.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.